Saturday, September 24, 2016

"What can Spain do to tackle its growing suicide problem?"

"Suicides have hit a record high for a third year running, and are Spain’s main cause of unnatural death...

Experts call for a national strategy to curb the rising number of people taking their own lives."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"4 maps that [might] change how you see migration in Europe"

"Did you know that Polish people represent the highest percentage of the foreign-born population in Norway? 

Or that the largest proportion of immigrants to the Republic of Ireland hail from the UK?


These four maps, created by Jakub Marian, a Czech linguist, mathematician and artist, are based on a 2015 study by the United Nations on international migration. 

They show European migration split into various numbers: 


1. The percentage of the population of each country that is made up of foreign-born migrants 


2. The most common country of origin for that number


3. Whether that number has gone up or down in the past five years


4. The immigrant populations that are expanding the most."

Read more from source here.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"On trust and the grape" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

People trust each other where I live. 

I'm not talking about the kind of confidence where no one needs to lock their doors. I mean that where I live you don't see that look of suspicion in the eyes of a stranger that you consistently do in England, for example.

There seems to be a basic belief that the men and women next to you are not out to cheat you or somehow do you wrong. 

And this is despite acts of terrorism, theft and selfish outlooks on daily display, in addition to a mainstream media that feeds on reporting crime. 

Of course this unstated faith is regularly abused. Maybe routinely so. Yet it continues.
 
We used to live on the outskirts of Vilafranca del Penedès, a medium sized town of about 40,000 people in the agricultural interior of Catalonia. Behind our apartment building there are large grapevine plantations and paths running through them. Every day people walk there, jog, or take their dogs for exercise.
 
But there are no fences. It would be easy and cheap to put fences around these fields but nobody has felt this to be necessary. Thousands of euros of vineyards lie apparently unattended for short periods of time and these vines are of course unguarded.
 
If this was in, say Israel or near an English town would it be the same? My guess is no.
 
There are also no fences in the little village we have chosen to live in since moving a handful of kilometres away from Vilafranca. The grape is still the dominant feature in the landscape and our house looks onto fields of vines: verdant green in summer and bare brown after October. 

I find it impossible to walk through these fields with their soothing geometrical lines and not feel better than I did before.
 
Maybe this is partly why the farmers I talk to seem to be a contented bunch. Despite absurdly low prices for their quality produce it's apparent that they enjoy what they do. I know several who voluntarily work into a very ripe old age, tending to the simplicity of cultivating plants in what the French call an industry of pleasure. Give a man a job that is he is satisfied with and he is halfway to being happy.
 
Recently though, the basic confidence that the average European has in those around him or her is sadly being tested and is also being shaken. 

Terrorism by fanatics, extremists and the ultra-marginalised is mainly responsible for this but so far Spain and Catalonia have resisted seeing right wing political parties as a possible answer to the various forms of random slaughter that have continued across the continent (and for that matter, much of the world.) 

I suspect however, that all those healthy fields of green and red grapes will stay unaffected and untouched by the sadistic joy of small-minded egotists intent on mass-murder.

(This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, September 2016.)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

"A Little-Known Perspective on the Life of Homeless People in France — Their Own"

(Tents from charity ‘Les Enfants de Don Quichotte’ on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, Paris. From Wikipedia Creative Commons 2.0`)



















"There are many preconceived ideas about the lives of the homeless in France. The most widespread amongst them are as follows:
  • “It's a declining trend in France.”
The total number of homeless people in France (excluding refugees in the camps in Calais) is difficult to estimate, but the FNARS, a national organisation for social inclusion and re-insertion, estimates the figure to be between 150,000 and 240,000 people. The Fondation Abbé Pierre, a homeless charity based on the benevolence of its namesake, a 20th century Catholic priest, estimates that there are 50% more homeless people in France than three years ago — including 30,000 children.
  • “To be homeless is an active choice.”
A study shows that only 6% of homeless people choose to live on the streets.
  • “The homeless don't work.”
Many homeless people are employed on fixed-term or temporary contracts.

In an attempt to correct the narrative about the homeless, some homeless people in France over the years have told their stories in their own words on social media. Let's meet three of them: Stéphane, Francis and ‘SDF75′, who all have at one point offered insight into their lives on their respective blogs.

‘I am a computer programmer first and a homeless person second’

SDF75 explained why he wanted to create a different blog:


Read more from source at Global Voices here.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"The world's movement of people – in one map"



"The world is experiencing the biggest displacement of people since the Second World War, with more than 22 million displaced from their home countries. More than 1 million people arrived in Europe in 2015 alone. 

This map, posted on metrocosm.com and based on estimates from the UN Population Division, gives a remarkable insight into the extent of global migration.

It shows the estimated net migration by origin and destination between 2010 and 2015. Each yellow dot represents 1,000 people, while blue dots indicate positive net migration, and red negative net migration."

Read more from source here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Welcome to Sunny Barcelona, Where the Government Is Embracing Coops, Citizen Activism, and Solar Energy"

 “When we moved into city hall, there were only paintings by men,” Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau tweeted in March, attaching a picture of her current office wall, which now featured portraits of eight prominent Catalan women—including the legendary anarchist leader Federica Montseny.

“Redecorating the walls, that was the easy change,” Colau’s second in command, Gerardo Pisarello, joked when we spoke with him in late June. “The other ones take quite a bit longer—they are more difficult and don’t just depend on us.” Pisarello’s office, too, features black-and-white photographs: one of a woman celebrating the proclamation of Spain’s Second Republic in 1931, and another taken at the country’s first LGBT protest after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, a demonstration that, as Pisarello proudly points out, happened in Barcelona. 

Colau and her team were unexpectedly swept into the mayor’s office in May 2015. Barcelona en Comú (“Barcelona in Common”), the progressive political platform Colau and others founded less than a year before the elections, won by the narrowest of margins, with a mere 11 of the 41 seats in the city’s council. It was just enough to form a minority government. 

Still, the BeC platform—a coalition that includes the Catalan branch of Spain’s new anti-austerity party Podemos, the United Left, and the Catalan Green Party—has faced a difficult challenge. Their aspiration is not just to alleviate the severe social and economic consequences of the Great Recession. They also want to reinvent how city government functions, from the ground up.

“I think what’s happening in Barcelona is unique,” Laura Roth, who teaches political science at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and runs BeC’s neighborhood assembly for Ciutat Vella, says. “There are struggles everywhere. There are movements everywhere. Some are more democratic and others are less democratic. Some are more active and successful and others are less. But I think that there aren’t many movements today that are rethinking how to do politics.” 

Read more from source at The Nation here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"Europats:" citizen's representation across Europe










"EUROPATS is a new initiative to call for Full Rights for all European Citizens, to represent those Europeans who reside in other EU countries which are not their own; to ensure that their voices are heard and to champion their rights in Brussels as well as other centres of political influence at a national, regional and local level.

EUROPATS was started in June 2016 when the UK voted to leave the EU.  EUROPATS stands for all disenfranchised Europeans living in the EU."


Read more from source here.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"The Hungry Years in Catalonia: An Interview with Peter Bush about 'Black Bread'"

"Black Bread, one of the major novels of Catalan literature, makes its appearance in English in the Biblioasis International Translation Series this month, in a translation by Peter Bush. Series editor Stephen Henighan asked Bush about the narrative world of the novel’s author, Emili Teixidor, who grew up in rural Catalonia under fascist occupation."

Read text of interview here.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"In Andalusia, on the Trail of Inherited Memories"

"ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA, Spain — I still wonder how I ended up living in a former medieval bordello on the brink of a sandstone cliff on the southern frontier of Spain.

It was 2008, the start of the Andalusian region’s economic meltdown, La Crisis, and anxiety spread like the Black Plague. But from the roof of my apartment in this ancient white pueblo, I plunged back in time.

The other world worried about bills, real estate values, tourism, lost jobs, the immediate future. In contrast, I retreated into my quest, hoping to take new stock of my identity by reclaiming ancestral memories, history and DNA clues that I believe had been faithfully passed down for generations of my family, the Carvajals.

They had left Spain centuries ago, during the Inquisition. That much I knew. We were raised as Catholics in Costa Rica and California, but late in life I finally started collecting the nagging clues of a very clandestine identity: that we were descendants of secret Sephardic Jews — Christian converts known as conversos, or Anusim (Hebrew for the forced ones) or even Marranos, which in Spanish means swine.

I didn’t know if my family had a connection to the white pueblo. But by living in its labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, I hoped to understand the fears that shaped the secret lives of my own family.

History is a part of daily life in the old quarter, where Inquisition trials were staged and neighbors spied on neighbors, dutifully reporting heretics — Christian converts who were secretly practicing Judaism. The former Jewish quarter, where white houses plunge down a steep, silvery lane, is still standing, though unmarked by any street sign. I wanted to understand why my family guarded secret identities for generations with such inexplicable fear and caution. When my aunt died a few years ago, she left instructions barring a priest from presiding over her funeral; my grandmother did the same."

Read more from source here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ladino - "On what a dying language leaves behind"

"My grandmother’s mother tongue was Ladino—old Spanish, the language of the Sephardic Jews. 

Like Yiddish, it’s a kind of pidgin language, a collage of words drawn from multiple sources, among them: Medieval Spanish, Galician-Portuguese, Mozarabic, Greek, Bulgarian, French, Serbo-Croatian. 

And like Yiddish, it’s a vulnerable language. Once the trade language of the Adriatic Sea and the Middle East, and renowned for its rich literature especially in Salonika, it’s now under serious threat of extinction. UNESCO has called it “seriously endangered.” 

I’ve never heard it spoken in person, though one can listen online at the Ladino preservation council’s website. When I do, I feel like I should understand the voice that sounds like my grandmother’s, with its purring R’s, but I don’t. Not a single word.
 
I’m not sure how much Ladino my grandmother remembered when she died in the American Midwest at 103. As a girl, she’d studied in Egypt at French schools. Later, she studied law in France, married a Frenchman. French was the only language I ever heard her speak, besides a richly accented English. French was my mother’s first language. My brother and I never considered taking Spanish in school. We took French, naturellement. And explained our interest, if asked, by saying our mother was French.
 
In researching my collection of linked stories, Heirlooms, which is based on family stories, I came across old letters written in what I came to understand was Ladino. I knew from reading other old family letters that much about the writer could be revealed in their word choice or turn of phrase. I stared at the undecipherable swoops of cursive, wondering what the letters conveyed. 

My mother could glean a few words, because Ladino, like French, is a Romance language. My mother’s cousin who grew up in Israel couldn’t help us, as he’d heard Ladino only when the grown ups didn’t want the children to know what they were talking about. 

Read more from Rachel Hall's article in Guernica magazine here.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

"Times in the balance" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

Now that summer is here it is easy to ignore the wider world and only take in what we see through the sun's glare at the beach or from the top of a shady mountain.

Away from the ease of nature’s innocence though, it seems to me that we living in both pivotal and fascinating days. The good news is that Europe can take heart from some real achievements in environmental energy over the last few months. 

For example, in the month of May Germany was almost entirely powered by solar and wind, Britain functioned without coal for the first time in over a century and Portugal ran on renewable energy alone for four days straight. 

Also, the EU Parliament has called on the European Commission to severely restrict permitted uses of the toxic agricultural herbicide glyphosate - a probable cause of cancer and a substance already found in our bloodstreams.

Just across the sea in Tunisia is another development that must be welcome to anyone who cares about basic human rights. In that part of the continent that originally sparked the Middle Eastern Arab Spring protests over five years ago, Tunisia’s once-extreme Ennahda party "officially declared that it will separate its religious activities from its political ones...[and] acknowledged the primacy of secular democracy over Islamist theocracy." 

In other words, mosques there will be politically neutral - a major blow to any recruiters of fundamentalist terrorists.

But there are also current affairs stories that are not at all heartening. Conservative party attacks on the taxpayer-funded BBC TV are continuing without mercy. 

David Cameron’s government is trying to take further money away from children’s programmes in a move towards corporate advertising on that great media institution. This idea of complete abandonment of the public sector is now being taken to it’s logical conclusion elsewhere. In Gurgaon, a booming new Indian city with a population of millions they live and work “without a citywide system for water, electricity or even public sewers.”

It is exactly this kind of problem that billionaire technology magnate Bill Gates sees holding the United States of America back. He recently made the case for public funding of crucial infrastructure, arguing: ““Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D [research and development] has defined the state of the art in almost every area. The private sector is in general inept,” he said. 

At least North America is experiencing a resurgence in the sales of books however. In 2015, incomes for independent booksellers were up just over 10%, and are remaining strong in 2016. Sadly, this is not the case for the United Kingdom where over six hundred independent bookshops have closed in the last decade.

Meanwhile in Australia, Peter Dutton (a man that doctors voted ‘the worst Health Minister in 35 years - having cut $57 billion from public hospitals) has just been put in charge of the area of national immigration. He was promptly caught on camera making jokes about climate impacts on low-lying Pacific Islands while on diplomatic visit. Then, as part of Australia’s right-wing government he made the self-contradicting comment that refugees “won't be numerate or literate ... They would languish on unemployment ...These people will be taking Australian jobs."

Over the summer I’m going to stop thinking about the above news items. I’m sure there will soon be fresh pieces of our human doings to be amazed by.


[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, July 2016.]

Saturday, July 2, 2016

"Why British boarding schools produce bad leaders"

[Boarders … Boris Johnson and David Cameron. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA]
 "In Britain, the link between private boarding education and leadership is gold-plated. 

If their parents can afford it, children are sent away from home to walk a well-trodden path that leads straight from boarding school through Oxbridge to high office in institutions such as the judiciary, the army, the City and, especially, government. 

Our prime minister was only seven when he was sent away to board at Heatherdown preparatory school in Berkshire. 

Like so many of the men who hold leadership roles in Britain, he learned to adapt his young character to survive both the loss of his family and the demands of boarding school culture. The psychological impact of these formative experiences on Cameron and other boys who grow up to occupy positions of great power and responsibility cannot be overstated. It leaves them ill-prepared for relationships in the adult world and the nation with a cadre of leaders who perpetuate a culture of elitism, bullying and misogyny affecting the whole of society.
Nevertheless, this golden path is as sure today as it was 100 years ago, when men from such backgrounds led us into a disastrous war; it is familiar, sometimes mocked, but taken for granted. But it is less well known that costly, elite boarding consistently turns out people who appear much more competent than they actually are. They are particularly deficient in non-rational skills, such as those needed to sustain relationships, and are not, in fact, well-equipped to be leaders in today's world

I have been doing psychotherapy with ex-boarders for 25 years and I am a former boarding-school teacher and boarder. My pioneering study of privileged abandonment always sparks controversy: so embedded in British life is boarding that many struggle to see beyond the elitism and understand its impact. The prevalence of institutionalised abuse is finally emerging to public scrutiny, but the effects of normalised parental neglect are more widespread and much less obvious. Am I saying, then, that David Cameron, and the majority of our ruling elite, were damaged by boarding?"

Read more from source here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

"A Children's Book Introduces German Kids to the True Story of Syrian Refugees"

[Credit: Jan Birck]
"There are now more than 65 million people displaced by conflict in the world, the highest level ever recorded. Half of these refugees are children.

Germany has received more than 1 million refugees, mostly from Syria and Iraq. Despite supporters initially celebrating Chancellor Angela Merkel's actions, many Germans have begun voicing concerns about when this acceptance of migrants will come to an end.

But while the adults in Germany have expressed mixed reactions to the refugees, German author Kirsten Boie wants children at least to realize that a refugee child is just like any other kid in the world.

In her latest children’s book, “Everything Will Be Alright,” she writes the true story of Rahaf and her family, who flee Homs, Syria due to bombings by war planes. The family crosses the Mediterranean Sea on a small boat, ultimately choosing a small town near Hamburg, Germany to start their new lives.

The book is published in German and Arabic and is meant to be read at school to both German-born children and their new immigrant neighbors. (An English translation is available online here.)"

Listen to this story on PRI.org »

Friday, June 24, 2016

"On the results of the UK/Europe referendum - DiEM 25"

This movement, of which I am a proud member, released a statement this morning which I generally agree with:

"DiEM25 campaigned vigorously in favour of a radical IN vote.

OUT won because the EU establishment have made it impossible, through their anti-democratic reign (not to mention the asphyxiation of weaker countries like Greece), for the people of Britain to imagine a democratic EU.
Our radical IN campaign was thus defeated.

We can proudly look the powers-that-be in Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris etc. in the eye and tell them: “We tried to save the EU from you. But you have poisoned the EU so badly by silencing the voices of democrats that, though we tried, we could not convince to people of Britain to stay.”

We, at DiEM25, are in no mood for being downcast now that Leave won, against our better efforts. As of today, a new exciting challenge begins for our pan-European democratic movement.

At DiEM25 we rejected the logic of EU disintegration implicit in the Leave campaign. But we also rejected the logic of business-as-usual for the EU peddled by David Cameron, Tony Blair, Wolfgang Schäuble, François Hollande, Jean-Claude Juncker, Hillary Clinton and all the other contributors to the loss of EU’s legitimacy, integrity and soul.
DiEM25 regrets that the British people chose to leave in the EU. But at the same time, DiEM25 welcomes the British people’s determination to tackle the diminution of democratic sovereignty caused by the gross de-politicisation of political decisions and the consequent democratic deficit in the EU.

As of today, DiEM25 will seize upon the OUT vote to promote its radical agenda of confronting the EU establishment more powerfully than before.

The EU’s disintegration is now running at full speed. The DiEM25 campaign of building bridges across Europe, bringing democrats together across borders and political parties, is what Europe needs more than ever to avoid a slide into a xenophobic, deflationary, 1930s-like abyss. 

In this endeavour, British progressives will be at the heart of DiEM25’s campaigns."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

" ‘The Day I Became Just a Stupid Number': One Syrian Refugee's Journey to Europe "

[Zozan Khaled Musa]
"A lot has been written about refugees in the last two years. But rarely do we hear from the refugees themselves in more than just soundbites. 

GlobalPost, an international news organization within the PRI family, commissioned essays from five young Syrians who all made the difficult decision to leave their homes — and undertake a menacing journey out of the country, to Turkey, to Greece and across southern Europe. 

This essay by Zozan Khaled Musa, 25, was originally published on PRI.org on May 31, 2016, and is republished here with permission. 

After a long dark journey in the Aegean Sea, I arrived to the small Greek island of Nera at about 3:30 on the cold morning of Oct. 3, 2015. There were many local fishermen who helped us after the boat landed. They wanted to have the boat’s engine, which was valuable to them.

It was an unbelievable relief to see our feet on land again. We decided to rest in a small room near the beach. There was not enough room for all of us. So only the women and children stayed inside. I made my bag a pillow and my jacket a blanket, but it was so cold that I couldn't close my eyes. 

When there was enough light, we walked to the local police station. It was about two-and-a-half miles away.
Many boats arrived to the island that night. Hundreds of people were standing in a line waiting their turn to be registered so they could take another boat to the main island of Kos. In Nera, when my turn came to get inside the office, they wrote the number “17” on my hand. 

I will never forget the day that I became just a stupid number on a long inhuman list. How shameful for humanity that so many people became nonhuman in that single helpless moment. I did all the procedures as best I could and headed to Kos, where the authorities waited for us with a paper with each one of our names on it. 

That paper allowed us to get on a ship going to Athens. It was a 12-hour journey. I made it to Athens the next morning and parted from my husband's friend’s family and met a Greek friend who was helping me get on a bus to the Macedonian border. It was 11 p.m..."


Read more from source here.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"Why the Spanish election offers hope for Europe" - Yanis Varoufakis interviewed in Barcelona


On 26th June the people of Catalonia, the people of Spain, have a unique opportunity to vote in a progressive government that will save the European Union from itself and from the disaster caused by the self-defeating austerity breeding unbearable authoritarianism. 

The incumbent prime minister of the right-wing People’s Party behaves like a spoilt child in Brussels, begging to be allowed to violate the unenforceable rules. The next prime minister of Spain, representing a progressive government that the Spanish voters now have the opportunity to bring to power, must call forth a EU summit that discusses and draws up new, rational, enforceable rules. 

Only then can Spain breathe again in a Europe that re-discovers its poise, rationality and humanity. This is why the 26th of June presents a unique opportunity, one that will be realised as long as the next government refuses to commit to existing policies and to Rajoy’s and Dos Guindos’ prior commitments to the Eurogroup.

Read more from a Greek bearing truths at his blog here.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"A stretched agony" - My latest book review for Catalonia Today magazine

small children trade the world for distraction
deal in statements with the grammar of a road sign
they’re happy to put the sun in the top corner of the page
count backwards from 9 and arrive at the end of this sentence
These lines from Nathan Shepherdson’s newly-reprinted “Sweeping the Light Back Into the Mirror” are an example of what this award-winning poet does so well: he uses memory to compress sentiments that are without sentimentality and gives us self-revelations that are not self-obsessed.
In one moment he is inside the mind of himself as a child: innocence, naivety and then using exact nuances of expression to capture that uncomplicated kiddy outlook. On another page you get the distinct impression that he is having a (one-sided) talk with his dead mother. The author not only dedicates the book to Noela Mary Shepherdson (who died in 2003) but he also continually shows a deep understanding of women in general, including an appreciation of women’s clothes and ‘finery.'

But this poet’s skills go much further than mere observation. His brilliantly gothic portrait of two crows near his mother’s grave is sixteen lines of the best poetry I have ever read, and his use of personification is equally as deft because it never seems forced or misplaced. Shepherdson also has a way of reminding us of what he calls the ‘tribunal of memoryand how it can make the settings of people we have been fond of so poignant and emblematic.


I too share his obvious fascination with the insect world (especially ants) and enjoy his regular references to plants, animals and nature in general. It would be wrong though to say that this book is in any way a breezy affair. There is barely a moment of lightness. When it appears it is the bleakest of dark humour (remindeding me of an episode with a waitress in Bob Dylan’s song Highlands.) Shepherdson recalls his mother this way: "you drew a straight line on the wall/laughed and turned/and declared it a self portrait"


Every parent would surely like to be revered with such devotion by a son or daughter, though for this poet it has come at a price. Here, he is filleting his nerves: "this is where I murder truth/cut the bowels out of the clock /this is where you pay the bill/the one you kept under your left breast for years/you had faith/i had you"

The final part of the book is a like a doctor’s chart that puts graphic images on top of one another. It gives snapshots of the brutal physical and mental decline of an emotionally-generous woman, and is a kind of stretched agony. I found tears stinging my eyes while reading the last pages of this book:

take a marking pen
and draw infinity around the eyes of one just departed
you have just created two black holes
marked them out with a warning for light to turn away…
i wish i could draw your fingerprints from memory
exhume entire landscapes from an archive of touch

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, June 2016.]

Monday, May 30, 2016

"Can George Orwell Teach Catalonia a Lesson?"

"In the clear yet cold winter of 1936-1937 a 33-year-old George Orwell found himself fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.  He was to vividly record his experiences in Homage to Catalonia, one of the first-rate nonfictional books on the brutality of war. 

Now, with almost 50% of Catalans in favor breaking away from Spain, Spaniards are facing a possible fracturing of their country.  Absurd? Impossible? Illegal? Unconstitutional?  Well, Orwell had never imagined that the Barcelona he admired, where “the working class was in the saddle,” and where “there was a belief in the revolution and the future,” was to have “lies and rumors circulating everywhere, the posters screaming from the hoardings that I and everyone like me was a Fascist spy” in less than six months’ time.
No one is predicting that in today’s Spain fellow countrymen will be killing each other, and the Minister of Defense has said that Spanish military involvement will be unnecessary as long as everybody “fulfills their duty.”  But there are several salient historical and political parallels between what Orwell experienced in the Spanish Civil War and the current independence movement in Catalonia
."


Read more from source at El Pais in English here

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Germany puts refugees to work ... for one euro [an hour]"

"With a spoon and spatula in hand, Zaid, a 23-year-old Iraqi refugee, lifts the lid on a large pot filled with goulash and potatoes as he begins his shift.

From 6:30 to 8 pm, he is employed by the city of Berlin to dish out dinner to 152 other Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and Moldovan refugees in a sports hall, which had been turned into an emergency shelter for the newcomers.

Zaid is one of thousands of refugees who have taken on tasks ranging from repairing bicycles to pruning plants to cleaning sidewalks for pay of just over one euro ($1.1) an hour.

The so-called "one-euro jobs" have been touted as a springboard for the newcomers into Germany's job market, but experts remain skeptical about their effectiveness.

At the sports gym, Zaid tries to explain to the sceptical faces crowded in front of him what went into the beef stew that he described as "so German."

For the work that includes setting the table, cutting bread, serving food and then cleaning up, he is paid 1.05 euros an hour.

Restricted to working no more than 20 hours a week, Zaid gets a monthly income of 84 euros at best, a small extra on top of the 143 euros he receives as pocket money while he waits for the official decision on his asylum application."

Read more from source at GlobalPost here.